Federal and state governments need to boost infrastructure spending to preserve jobs in the flagging construction sector, officials with the Associated General Contractors of America said during an appearance in New Orleans on Wednesday.
The group, which represents the construction industry, pointed out that the New Orleans metro area has lost 2,700 construction jobs in the past year, more than any other metro area in the country.
That’s not entirely a surprise; the need for construction workers has declined as recovery projects related to Hurricane Katrina wrap up.
But the group is hoping that federal lawmakers will pass a multiyear transportation bill that would provide funding for a backlog of needed highway upgrades. It is launching a “Drive Better Roads” campaign aimed at highlighting infrastructure problems and the loss of construction jobs in almost half of the 358 metro areas it tracks.
The lack of that funding has led many states to say they can’t take on major projects that would improve transportation, said Ken Simonson, the organization’s chief economist.
While construction is still prevalent throughout New Orleans, major recovery projects such as the $14.5 billion in upgrades to the levee system are in their final stretches. Others, such as the $1 billion University Medical Center, are complete.
Even if the number of construction jobs never again hits the peak it did in 2006, it would be higher with more state spending, said Ken Naquin, the head of the group’s Louisiana chapter.
That group’s efforts to get a 10-cent gas tax increase for infrastructure were shot down during this year’s legislative session.
“Our state Legislature has done nothing to address infrastructure spending,” Naquin said.